Connect with us

Books

Book Review: ‘The Chicken Sisters’ Keeps Me Reading

Published

on

This marks my third book review this year and I have high hopes it won’t be my last. As my inner (very inner) bookworm emerges from its cocoon, I can’t help but wonder if this is just some “you’re kinda adulting but you’re also kinda not” phase that will soon pass. You see, I am a lot of things, but a bookworm is most certainly not one of them. Or should I say wasn’t? On rare occasions, I have found myself lost in a really good book, usually a thriller or mystery of some sort, but again, pretty rare. I’m also quite notorious for starting a book and then never finishing it. (I’m working on it, ok?) So, I’m switching it up, trying new things and embracing this new, very adultish, profound interest of mine. 

Which brings me to: “The Chicken Sisters,” my latest read. My sweet, sweet mom gave this to me and my sister this past Christmas, which was a very on-brand thing for her to do. I mean, just another thing we can bond over, right? After all, “sisters” is in the title. The book, obviously about sisters, was given to us not because of that, but instead, because it is a “Reese’s Book Club Pick.”

Photo via Amazon

The Chicken Sisters” by KJ Dell’Antonia — $9.54 Paperback

Naturally, I had to let it sit and age a bit before cracking it open, like any esteemed bookworm would do. After about five months, I decided it had aged long enough and started it, fully determined to finish it, which I did. 

Given that this isn’t my typical go-to book genre, I was surprised by how much I liked it. Not that I didn’t trust Reese Witherspoon of course! I will say, I got a little bored reading it, especially in the middle of the book. The titular sisters’ “rivalry” became a bit petty and annoying at times, as opposed to realistic. The characters irked me some, but I feel like that’s almost inevitable. The character development seemed a bit rushed, but you definitely see their growth by the end of the book, which is the least I could ask for. Last thing I’ll say is that the ending was a little predictable, but at the same time, I wasn’t able to predict how they got to the end (if that makes sense). I definitely recommend this to sisters because it made it all the more relatable, which I think is what kept me drawn in the most. Don’t get me wrong, my sister and I are best friends and have never even come close to the annoyingly estranged relationship shared between the two main characters (seriously). But, it takes having a sister to understand that this type of conflict between sisters is certainly feasible. 

Overall, this book is light-hearted, funny, relatable, and wholesome. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two toward the end. All good tears though! What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good ending. And for those of you who would like a numerical rating, I’d give it 3 stars, which is still pretty darn good in my book (pun fully intended).

Books

Book Review: “Crossroads” Is More Relevant Than It Seems

Published

on

Photo via Amazon

To readers under a certain age, Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Crossroads will seem like it belongs in a bookstore’s fantasy section. As is typical of Franzen’s works, the book centers around Midwestern liberals. Unlike his other heroes, these characters do not escape flyover country to join an environmental nonprofit or open a trendy restaurant. The Hildebrandts live, work, breathe, eat, sleep—among other things—in and around a Protestant church. These are white liberal churchgoers, a demographic practically unheard of in America today. It is only by setting the book in the 1970s that the author is able to get the reader to suspend disbelief. 

Photo via Amazon

Crossroads: A Novel — $18.08

The Hildebrandts are not just cultural Christians, holding on by some common thread so that grandparents can enjoy baptisms and first communions. Their patriarch, Russ Hildebrandt, is the pastor at First Reformed in the Chicago suburbs. In fact, both Russ and his wife are converts to that sect of Protestantism, each rejecting older Christian traditions for varying reasons. Most shocking to modern readers is the vibrancy of the church’s youth group, called “Crossroads,” from which the book gets its title. In New Prospect, Illinois, Crossroads is the place to be on a weekend night, whether you are a wannabe do-gooder or a popular long-haired, pot-smoking musician. 

In 2021, most young people who consider themselves part of the social justice movement would not be caught dead inside a house of worship. Churches are seen as oppressive institutions in service of the patriarchy, and their influence on society is not to be trusted. In Crossroads, Franzen shows how that was not always the case, while simultaneously painting a scene of the last gasp of the Christian Left in America. One of the primary tensions in the book is between Russ, who uses biblical teachings to inform his bleeding heart, and Ambrose, the leader of the youth group, who infuses his sermons with what might be called Moral Therapeutic Deism—heavy on the moral therapy, light on the deism. 

It is no spoiler to say that Ambrose wins that battle, a victory foretold by how little a role God and Jesus play in a book ostensibly about a clergyman and his family. Characters are constantly trying to “do the right thing,” but the timeworn axiom “What Would Jesus Do” never factors into their calculus. When any of the Hildebrandts do petition Jesus, he or she is looking for license to break one of the Ten Commandments. One of the great perks of liberal Christianity is its lack of strict rules. Of course, it is that very thing that makes it ultimately inessential to human life. 

Although at first glance Franzen’s least relevant book, Crossroads benefits from being his least preachy. By setting it in the past, he assumes the reader is already familiar with issues like the Vietnam War and the plight of Native Americans. This gives him more space to explore the motivations of each of the characters, and as a result they are more fleshed out than some of his earlier creations. Two decades after The Corrections, Franzen has yet to reach its literary heights once again. Although the Hildebrandts are generally more likable than the Lamberts (and infinitely more likable than the protagonists of Freedom and Purity), the time and place of Crossroads are just too distant to have the same cultural force. Still, this is a very enjoyable novel, and Jonathan Franzen continues to prove why his novel releases function as literary events.

Buy Crossroads: A Novel — $18.08 Hardcover, $14.99 Kindle

Continue Reading

Books

Book Review: ‘The Silent Patient’

Published

on

It’s been about a month since my last book review, and in that review, I mentioned how completely out of character it has been for me to be reading so much lately. Well, since then, I am very proud to say that I have read six more books. That’s right, six whole grown-up books I’ve read in the last five weeks. I mean, I know I told you all that I hoped the previous book review I wrote wouldn’t be my last, but there was never a time when I imagined myself reading six books in a five-week period. So mom, I guess this isn’t “just a stage” after all. 

Of those six books, only two have been thrillers, which if you read my last review, you’d know are my favorite. I enjoyed reading both of them, but the one I’m going to write about today is called “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, a psychological thriller that was super easy to read and nearly impossible to put down.

Photo via Amazon

“The Silent Patient” — $13.67

The Silent Patient is about Alicia Berenson, a famous painter in London, who murdered her husband and has been silent ever since. Alicia was convicted, then admitted into a psychiatric unit in North London, where she has spent the last six years silent. Theo Faber is a forensic psychotherapist, who, after six years of obsessing over Alicia’s case, finally gets the opportunity to work with her. Theo, you’ll learn, had a pretty traumatic upbringing. Given this and his seemingly miraculous recovery to become a forensic psychotherapist, Theo immediately empathizes with Alicia’s story and feels compelled to fix her. A psychotherapist turned Sherlock Holmes in a matter of pages, Theo is determined to unravel the mystery behind what sparked Alicia’s violent act and her subsequent silence.

Between their silent meetings together and his own—what I can only describe as—illegal and inappropriate “detective work,” Theo begins to grasp the true identity of Alicia Berenson. Just like any psychological thriller worth its salt, the twists and turns in this book will leave you wanting more until the very end. And the ending, well, that you certainly won’t expect. I didn’t, that’s for sure. 

Overall, I really liked this book. It’s been a while since I’ve read a thriller, and The Silent Patient did not disappoint. The storytelling in this contemporary novel is dark, twisted, and addicting, with an ending that will leave you speechless. On a 5-star scale, I’d rate this book a 4.5. I highly recommend it.

BUY “The Silent Patient” on Amazon, $13.67

Continue Reading

Books

Book Review: ‘The Unbroken Thread’

Published

on

In October 2020, in the middle of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis published an encyclical titled Fratelli Tutti, or “All Brothers.” In it, the Holy Father wrote:

Wisdom is not born of quick searches on the internet nor is it a mass of unverified data. That is not the way to mature in the encounter with truth. Conversations revolve only around the latest data; they become merely horizontal and cumulative. We fail to keep our attention focused, to penetrate to the heart of matters, and to recognize what is essential to give meaning to our lives. 

The same sentiment would not have been out of place in Sohrab Ahmari’s book The Unbroken Thread. Framed as a message for his young son, The Unbroken Thread desperately searches for ways that modern men and women can give meaning to their lives. The subtitle, “Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos,” aptly sums up his solution. When society around you seems to be going insane, it is a good idea to look to the past for solace. 

Photo via Amazon

The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos — $16.79

In this sense, The Unbroken Thread is a consolation of sorts. It presents 12 anecdotes, each spotlighting an historical figure from a diverse group that includes St. Augustine, Confucius, and Andrea Dworkin. All of these luminaries found themselves in uncertain and irresolute times, and instead of submitting to the fads of the day, they hewed to certain truths they knew to be inviolable. Despite the Whiggish viewpoint from which we are all taught to interpret history, Ahmari does a good job of demonstrating that our current “Age of Chaos” is not uniquely disordered. Societies and cultures have lost their way in the past—the St. Augustine chapter is especially compelling on this point—but the human story is not foreordained to be one of continued devolution into madness. In other words, there is hope. 

Importantly, in framing the book as advice to his son, Ahmari is able to transcend the “profiles in courage” genre in which it risks getting pigeonholed. Each of the 12 chapters presents an historical figure, yes, but more precisely it addresses how that historical figure dealt with a question relevant to our own time. These include questions that thinkers have pondered over for centuries, if not millennia, such as “How do you justify your life?” and “Is God reasonable?” as well as ones that presuppose an understanding of the current moment, like “Can you be spiritual without being religious?” and “Is sex a private matter”? In 21st century America, some of these are treated as settled questions, and taking the opposing side can get you “canceled.” But all of them are worth taking seriously and thinking about in depth. 

In a chapter on the Roman philosopher Seneca, Ahmari writes, “The life of the mind amounts to vanity, or something worse, if it doesn’t actually improve how we live.” This is a challenge to the reader of The Unbroken Thread. If the book fails in any respect, it is that it doesn’t quite offer a roadmap as to how to use the acts of its worthies to improve one’s own life. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are phenomenal role models on how to live a saintly life, but the average reader of The Unbroken Thread is not going to be able to write City of God or the Summa Theologica as a rejoinder to our own culture of decadence

But that is not a failure on Ahmari’s part. The Unbroken Thread never claims to be any sort of manual. Other, much older books, can help with that. This book’s stated goal is to pose questions that make you think, and on that it succeeds. It is up to the reader to make use of that thinking to improve his or her life. 

Continue Reading

Trending